"The opposite of love is not hate; it is apathy."
I have no idea who originally said the above, but it struck me when I first heard it over 15 years ago, and it rings true today.
Apathy, terrible apathy. The emotion that Jesus never seems to have felt is one I feel too often. I've been ashamed even to write about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, because I have felt little other than apathy. And that is not a Christian response.
Maybe it was the fact that people continued to live in an area below sea level, where no private insurer would provide flood insurance. Maybe it was people who could wade through the muck to loot abandoned buildings but didn't proceed to wade their way out of the city. Maybe it was the immediate whining and finger-pointing, from local governments, advocacy groups and displaced citizens. Maybe it was knowing always in the back of my mind that the majority of these people were going to be just fine -- the government was going to step in a provide generously, no matter how much money private relief offered. Maybe knowing that either way my family was going to be paying for the multiple human follies that escalated this natural disaster to such an extreme level -- in taxes, higher fuel prices, raised insurance premiums -- that made me reluctant to step forward and answer the call to avail myself of the opportunity to serve my fellow man. It was probably a combination of all these things, but also this: there is only so much heartache and horror the human spirit can withstand before the soul callouses and terrible apathy comes to dwell in a tender heart.
The first casualty of the War Against Terror, that first serviceman to be killed in Afghanistan, he was mourned by the country. He was local to Washington, and a public funeral was held up here, drawing scores people touched by someone who would offer his life for others. Banks set up funds in his name to help his family. He was talked about on news shows and radio shows and had a write-up of his life in the local paper -- and probably nationally too. Now, the news casually reports such-and-such number of lost troops per attack. We rarely even hear their names anymore. The bodybags have become too numerous for us to count -- so we close our eyes to them. The loss of a serviceman or servicewoman has retreated back to a private loss for their family or, at most, community. The nation no longer mourns -- it sets its jaw and proceeds on.
If terror ever becomes as common on our soil as it has become in Israel, we will learn to harden ourselves to it as they have. It is a survival tactic -- you cannot live your life if every day is 9/11. And as we continue forward in this insane age, as we fix our eyes on the horizon, we forget sometimes that Jesus weeps over Jerusalem still. He weeps and feels everything that we cannot, for His infinite nature contains all of the pain of the world, as well as all the true joy.
So, in the United States, this nation blessed beyond all reason with material wealth and a generous spirit -- it is difficult to conceive of real human need in this rich land. The vast majority of those people, victims of circumstance and poor planning, will be okay -- there is nothing holding them back but a misplaced sense of despair. I tend to reserve my compassion for cases of oppression wherein the sufferers really haven't any control of their destinies. Cases like political oppression, economic oppression, and, most of all, the depravity of abortion are the ones that tie my soul into knots -- not a bunch of people who will, essentially, after a modicum of discomfort, be as before -- or maybe even, refined by hardship, better off than before.
But, still, as a Christian, I cannot rest on my apathy. Christ was not apathetic to my plight, brought on by my all-too-human condition of sin, so I cannot be apathetic to my fellow man. I have been at work for the past few weeks trying to overcome this burden of nothingness. To whom am I a neighbor? Despite the behavior of too many folks in New Orleans (in particular) that infuriates me -- they are my neighbors. I will be a good neighbor, dammit. Lord, help me be a good neighbor and show Your love, as You will.
My wonderful husband gave to the fund that our church was collecting to send to Calvary Chapels in Louisiana. Today, I gave a little to Caring To Love Ministries, to help support crisis pregnancy centers in that area that are needed now more than ever. Those most at risk now in Louisiana are those who are most at risk even outside a state of emergency -- the unborn. Crisis pregnancy compounds in desperation when the crisis is external as well as internal. This Sunday, we will donate more to our church's relief efforts -- I'd far rather see people receiving compassion from the Church, receiving Living Water with bottles of water, than from Government's misguided largesse.
Your prayers would be appreciated as I continue to battle this apathy. And, of course, prayers to those who suffer -- in the U.S. and around the world.